By Leong Sze Hian
I refer to the articles “More new immigrants to serve as grassroots leaders” (Channel NewsAsia, May 18) and “MP Indranee: P1 registration priority given to grassroots leaders not based along party lines” (TR Emeritus, May 13)
Primary 1 priority?
The latter states that “In Parliament today (13 May), NCMP Lina Chiam asked about the Primary One registration which gives priorities to “active community leaders”.
She posed the following questions to MOE in Parliament:
To ask the Minister for Education:
(a) whether only those serving in People’s Association and its affiliated committees and organisations are considered as active community leaders for the purpose of prioritising their children for Primary One Registration and, if so, why; and
(b) whether he will consider expanding the definition of active community leadership.
Not linked to Govt?
Instead, Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah answered that the priority system for children going through Primary One registration is not linked to the government.”
So, what is the definition of active community leadership? Any ordinary member or volunteer of grassroots’ organisations under the People’s Association (PA)?
Grassroots in opposition wards excluded?
With regard to “Ms Indranee said that priority is given to active community leaders and defined the eligibility based on objective view of community service, and not along party lines” – Why is it that grassroots volunteers who work with the elected MPs in the opposition wards, are excluded?
RCs, NCs, CCCs, CCMCs, CDCs?
As to “Ms Indranee said that community leaders who get priority include those serving the Residents’ Committee (RC), Neighbourhood Committee (NC), Citizen’s Consultative Committee (CCC), Community Club Management Committee (CCMC) and the Community Development Council (CDC)”, I understand that every constituency has about 6 or 7 RCs, and private estates have NCs.
So, how many grassroots leaders are there in total?
How many PRs & new citizens?
With 25,000 new citizens and 30,000 PRs in a year (Population White Paper), how many of the grassroots volunteers are PRs or new citizens?
Well, the first article referenced above said – “Currently, some 3,000 new immigrants are grassroots leaders.
They make up nine per cent of Singapore’s 33,000-member strong grassroots leadership.
The People’s Association hopes to make community leaders out of 300 more new immigrants — increasing the proportion of grassroots leaders who are new immigrants from the current nine per cent to 10 per cent by 2014″.
Do this 3,000 new immigrants refer to new citizens only?
How many more are PRs?
New citizens 2.8% of citizens’ population, but 9% of grassroots?
Since the number of new citizens, at 92,310 in the 5 years from 2007 to 2011, is only 2.8 per cent of the citizens’ population of 3.29 million, why is it that they comprise 9 per cent of grassroots leaders (and PA now wants to increase to 10 per cent!)?
Singaporeans under-represented in grassroots?
Why is it that Singaporeans appear to be grossly and disproportionately represented in the grassroots?
If we include grassroots leaders who are PRs, what is the proportion of the combined total of new citizens and PRs, to citizens?
In this connection, according to the article “New citizens and PRs flocking to join PAP grassroots organizations” (TR Emeritus, Jul 12, 2010) – “According to a Straits Times report today, they now constitute 20 percent of some 24,000 grassroots leaders in Singapore with 1,400 PRs and 4,600 new citizens”.
Actually, I suspect the calculator may be faulty because 1,400 plus 4,500 divided by 24,000 is about 25 and not 20 per cent?
HDB priority, free parking?
I also understand that they also get priority for HDB flats, free parking in the constituency, etc.
What percentage of HDB flats in BTO launches or sale of balance flats are set aside for such priority grassroots?
I have also been told (I have no way of verifying this) that grassroots leaders may also score extra points when they (or the applicant) apply for their foreign spouse or dependants to get citizenship, permanent residency (PR), long-term visit pass-plus (LTVP- plus), LTVP, student pass, employment pass, S-pass, entrepreneur-pass, the old Employment Pass Eligibility Certificate (EPEC) which allows foreigners to stay for up to one year to facilitate their job search in Singapore (this scheme has been terminated), work permit, etc?
In this connection, I agree with what Lim Miao Ling (17, JC1, Nanyang Junior College) said – that there should be “Priority for lower income” (for HDB flats) (“Points and priority for HDB flat allocation”, Straits Times, May 20).
Recruiting the wrong people?
If we recruit grassroots leaders who may be more attracted by the perks, rather than the joy of serving others and the community, I’m afraid we may be attracting the wrong kind of grassroots leaders.
To serve, not to reap?
Why do you think they are called grassroots leaders in the first place? Because they should subscribe to the principles of servant leadership, serve for altruism and not personal benefits.
Such “misplaced” policies may be symptomatic of what’s wrong with arguably the entire country today – over focus on money, personal or pecuniary benefits in practically every aspect of our lives – Pay and Pay!
“Voice of the silent majority”?
So, obviously I can’t agree with the remarks that “grassroots leaders are the “voice of the silent majority”, helping to strengthen ties between the ground and the government” (“Minister Lim: Grassroots leaders are ‘voice of silent majority’, May 19).
Let me tell you about a joke I heard (I can’t verify the joke – but a joke is just a joke – right!):
Resident: How come nowadays you don’t have one-day tours to Malaysia so often like before?
Grassroots volunteer: Aiya, nowadays so many members and volunteers need to apply for a visa just to go to Malaysia for one day – so, very troublesome leh
So, don’t organise so often liao
Only PAP can be adviser?
Since the grassroots adviser is always the PAP MP or the losing PAP candidate or PAP appointee, how can we say that it “is not linked to the government”.
Losing PAP candidate still become adviser?
In the debate in Parliament on 13 May, on the MND Town Council Review report, NCMP Lina Chiam’s question to MND Minister and PAP Chairman, Mr Khaw Boon Wan was – whether the Government will still appoint advisers in consituencies, even though they are not the elected MP – his short answer was – “that does not come under my purview”.
ComCare – only $104m
According to the budget of the former Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, the sum allocated to the ComCare and Social Support Programme was only $104 million, and only $25 million for the Elderly and Disability Programme.
People’s Association – $338m
The second largest component of expenditure was $338 million for the operating expenditure of the People’s Association (PA).
And I understand that it is the PA that looks after and funds most if not all the grassroots leaders’ activities.
So – the Minister’s reply in Parliament to NCMP Lina Chiam – “the priority system … is not linked to the government” – you must be kidding right?
After all – “Former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew once said in a dialogue that the PRCs have been sending teams of officials to study Singapore for years. To illustrate a lesson the Chinese learnt, Lee Kuan Yew said:
“They discover that the People’s Action Party (PAP) has only a small office in Bedok. But everywhere they go, they see the PAP – in the RCs, CCCs and CCs.””
4 very good reads in the Straits Times
In connection with all of the above, there are several very good reads in the Straits Times of 25 May:
… “‘The civil service must know when to stand firm’” which said “The solution he has outlined for public servants is to change the relationship between the Government and the people, and “put citizens at the centre” of their policies”
… ”Trust in public institutions: Can Singapore afford cracks?” which said “What starts out as dissatisfaction with one agency can quickly be generalised to cover all of Government. Part of that ease of generalisation is also down to how dominant the PAP has been over the years, and how it (civil service) is synonymous with Government”
… “Time to spell out core values of governance” which said “With as many voices against as for, with failure as possible as success, policies need to be underpinned by moral reasoning”
… “Making the personal political” which said “The People’s Action Party’s consolidation of power and control from the 1960s till the early 1980s, she argues, came at the cost of its alienation from “the social movements that has contributed to its formation and early development”
My comments on the above 4 Straits Times articles:
Is the Peoples’ Association considered to be part of the civil service? By definition, “The concept of permanence in the civil service requires that civil servants are able to serve governments of any party with the same degree of commitment. Therefore a corollary of permanence is political neutrality:
· their advice is expected to be non-partisan
· they do not undertake work which is of benefit to one party”
After reading the above extracts from the 4 articles, don’t you get the feeling that it may be about time that we review our grassroots policies, as the PA seems to be arguably implementing policy and ”undertaking work which is of benefit to one party (only)”.
The grassroots policies needs to be reviewed with emphasis on the “need to be underpinned by moral reasoning”.
We need to put “”put citizens at the centre” of their policies”
Unless the grassroots policies are reviewed, they may contribute to even further erosion of trust in the civil service.
Government cannot continue to perpetuate policies which arguably may lead to further “alienation from the people and social movements”.